CHICAGO — Here is another piece of Marcus Stroman’s Long Island lore, via a haunting childhood memory from Steven Matz: The first home run Matz ever gave up was to Stroman, when they were 8.
Apparently, Stroman was known as a stud even around the turn of the century. And that long ball has stuck with Matz as his earliest memory of his newest Mets teammate.
“I knew him before that, just because he was such a good player,” Matz recalled Tuesday afternoon. “Back then, everybody knew who he was. He was the best player around. We wanted to get him out, and he came up and he proved that he was really good.”
Stroman, still, is really good — good enough for the Mets to give up a pair of pitching prospects (Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson) to acquire him from the Blue Jays on Sunday. The righthander was scheduled to arrive in Chicago Tuesday night and throw a bullpen session at Guaranteed Rate Field on Wednesday.
During Stroman’s acclimation, Matz is about the only guy he won’t have to meet for the first time. Their history is a long one, even after that youth-league dinger: travel-ball teammates during the summer as teenagers and rivals during the school year, Matz starring for Ward Melville and Stroman for Patchogue-Medford. They were also roommates at the Area Code Games, a showcase for high-end prep baseball players.
They haven’t spoken since the trade or much at all in recent years — their dads are friends, Matz said — but Matz is looking forward to reuniting in the Mets rotation.
“He's a great pitcher. I've known him for a really long time, so it's pretty cool that we're playing on the same team now,” Matz said.
“I'm really good friends with [Jason Vargas, who the Mets traded to the Phillies on Monday], so I hate to see him go. Ultimately, we know it’s a business and we got a really good pitcher in Stroman back. We don't know what's going to happen. Whenever you get a good pitcher like him, I think we can continue to roll.”
Stroman and Matz’s shared dream of making it to the majors seemed more possible than ever, Matz said, when they faced off on April 16, 2009, in front of representatives of all 30 major-league teams. Ward Melville beat Patchogue-Medford, 1-0.
“The dream seemed realistic at that point,” Matz said. “He's a competitor. He's always pitched with a chip on his shoulder, per se. He's always been a really fierce competitor.”
After Jacob deGrom starts Wednesday, the Mets have Zack Wheeler, if he is not traded, going Thursday, then Matz on Friday and Stroman in his Mets debut Saturday.
If Wheeler is dealt, the Mets have two options: move up Matz and Stroman, or insert 36-year-old journeyman Ervin Santana, who was scratched from his start with Triple-A Syracuse Tuesday as a contingency plan for the major-league team. He was not in Chicago as of Tuesday, manager Mickey Callaway said. Santana is not on the 40-man roster.
Matz threw a bullpen session Tuesday — a day earlier than normal — in preparation for potentially pitching Thursday.
“It's all kind of in limbo right now,” Matz said.
The Mets said they did not have the results of Dominic Smith’s Monday tests on the stress reaction in his left foot. … Juan Lagares (fever) was unavailable Tuesday, manager Mickey Callaway said. … Jeff McNeil reported no ill effects after being hit in the shin by a pitch Sunday. That caused him to leave the game in the first inning, but he was fine following a day off Monday, as he expected. … Pete Alonso was wearing a shirt that read “Jeff McHits,” a gift from McNeil (via The 7 Line).